It’s Famicom Month here at Retroware TV and I’ve been playing my fair share of NES games. Well, I’ve been playing my fair share of NES games when the damn thing decides to work. My NES is on it’s last legs and it’s s shame considering this isn’t my first NES. After 10 failed attempts to get my reproduction cart of Earthbound Zero going I decided to give up and make a list of unavoidable (8-bit) retro gaming evils. Here are my top five:
Tangled controller and hook up cords were the bane of my, (and my parents) existence when I was six and they still continue to be one of my biggest frustrations today. No matter how hard I try to keep my all the gaming cables bundled up nicely, things always turn into a gnarled knot of epic proportions. Then when you finally get the right controller, AV, and Power cords separated, the cords always seem just a little bit too short. This is especially true for the Turbografx controllers. Those have got to be the shortest controller cords EVER. It sucks to have a controller so close but still too short to be able to play on the couch. It’s a tease.
This one is a minor gripe most of the time since you don’t usually have to deal with it too often, but that still doesn’t make it any less of a pain. Cleaning and maintaining those old cartridges can be a hassle. I hate it when I buy a used game cart and the contacts on the cartridge are so dingy that it takes a good two or three scrubbing attempts to get the game going. Then there are all of the Do’s and Don’ts for cleaning it. Should you use rubbing alcohol? Sand paper? Sulfuric acid? I don’t know anymore. (Pssst, if you want to learn more about this check out Roo’s video on cleaning games here)
Now, those of you who read my column often might see this and say, “Hey Mike, you’ve talked about how you like grinding in some old games!” Well…that’s true, but there is a HUGE difference between grinding in Phantasy Star or Cosmic Fantasy 2 and grinding in a game like Hydlide or Dragon Warrior. The difference is in Phantasy Star the battles are fast and you get new skills and items giving the player a feeling of accomplishment. In Hydlide the battles are relentless and Three hours of grinding= one hour of actual progress that you, the player, never feel. There an unfortunate number of games for the major 8-bit systems that rely on grinding to slow down the game instead of building it up. When this happens it ceases to be entertainment and turns into a chore.
Buying old games online can be exciting and fun. It can even often save you time and money, so why is buying online so high up on my list? It’s because buying games online can be a huge gamble. There are so many people out there who don’t know what they have and don’t know how to take care of their property. Usually when I get a game that takes forever to clean like I mentioned in #4 I got it online. And then, when you find a seller who knows the demand for a product they have, more often than not they will jack up the price to cruel levels. It’s a tricky process. As retro gamers, there are times we have to resort to the Internet to find games that we want that are long out of print and people try to take advantage of that. There is a special spot in hell for the guy who outbid me on Popful Mail for the Sega CD only to resell it for twice the price a week later.
Passwords. I. Hate. Passwords. And they are truly unavoidable. Not many NES, Famicom, or Master System games had battery back up, and the Turbografx game cards have no way of saving at all without buying an expensive add on. To be fair however, the amount of games that absolutely necessitated saving like that on those systems is fairly slim. But still, all sorts of games had passwords, sometimes over 20 characters long and sometimes case sensitive. They are just painful. I can’t tell you how any times I’ve forgotten a letter or written a capital instead of a lowercase, just to have six hours of play ruined. I don’t know why passwords were often so strange and cumbersome, and I don’t care. Passwords are unavoidable and they are evil. That’s that.